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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: KĀ-KAN

after (later than) of time”

A root appearing in notes from the late 1960s glossed “after (later than) of time”, appearing in variants √ and √KATA (PE22/147), the latter perhaps being KA + TA. Although the root itself did not appear until very late in Tolkien’s writing, there are hints of it much earlier, with ᴹQ. kata “after” and ᴹQ. kato “afterwards” appearing the Quenya Verbal System of the 1940s (PE22/124). Probably also related is S. cad which also likely meant “after”, appearing in drafts of the Lord of the Rings appendices, notably in Cadlaer “July, *After-summer” vs. Eblaer “June, *Before-summer” (PM/136). There is also a set of preposition from the middle of the 1950s Q. ca-, cata, cana: “behind, at back of place” which may be related; Tolkien often used the same roots for both spacial and temporal relations.

KAB “hold, contain, retain, possess, have in hand; [ᴹ√] hollow”

This root’s most notable derivative was the one of the Sindarin words for “hand”, S. cam, supplanting archaic S. †maw which survived only in compounds (VT47/6-7). This root first appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “hollow” (Ety/KAB), replacing any earlier entry glossed “hold, (?contain)”. The root reappeared in the late 1960s in Tolkien’s notes on Eldarin Hands, Fingers and Numerals, variously glossed “hold, contain, retain” (VT47/7) or “to hold, possess, have in hand” (VT47/20).

A later addition to these notes then makes the rather surprising claim that “kamba is from KAM not KAB”. This seems to be supported by a Quenya verb form camnelyes “you received it” (VT47/21), where the past form camne must be from √KAM. However, the form cambelyes was written below this, possibly indicating a restoration of √KAB, as suggested by Patrick Wynne. For purposes of Neo-Eldarin I think it best to continue to assume the existence of √KAB.

KAL “light; shine, be bright, [ᴱ√] shine golden”

This root was the basis for words having to do with “light” for most of Tolkien’s life. Its derivatives include Q. cala “light” and S. aglar “glory” which likewise retained the same basic form and meaning throughout Tolkien’s life. The root ᴱ√KALA first appeared in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s glossed “shine golden” (QL/44) along with a rejected variant ᴱ√ALA “light” (QL/29). In this early iteration, the root ᴱ√KALA included a number of derivatives having to do with daytime, such as ᴱQ. kala¹ “daytime (sunlight), 12 hours” and G. gala “daylight” (QL/44; GL/38). Also of interest is that most of the Gnomish derivatives from this period began with g-, indicating that the true form of the root may have been *ᴱ√GALA (or at least a blending with it), since initial [g-] became [k-] in Early Qenya.

This G/K variation became explicit in The Etymologies of the 1930s, where ᴹ√KAL “shine” had a Noldorin-only variant ᴹ√GAL (Ety/GAL, KAL). Tolkien did consider having a few Quenya derivatives of ᴹ√GAL, but they were all rejected (EtyAC/GAL¹). In the 1930s, it also seems the “daytime” derivatives were transferred to ᴹ√AR¹ “day” (Ety/AR¹). The root √KAL continued to appear in Tolkien’s later writings, variously glossed “shine”, “light” and “be bright”, with such frequency that it is impractical to list all the references. Likewise Tolkien continued to refer to the Sindarin-only variant √GAL on a regular basis; see that entry for details.

The root √KAL had a couple of extended forms of note, in particular √KALAR glossed “be radiant” in the 1930s (PE18/62), also appearing in the vowel-suppressed variant ᴹ√AKLA(R) “radiance, splendour” which served as the basis for Q. alcar/S. aglar “glory, brilliance, splendour, radiance” (PE17/105, 124; PE18/36, 87; VT47/13; Ety/AKLA-R, KALAR). Tolkien frequently used the extension √KALAT as the representation of triconsontal roots (PE18/33, 86; WJ/392), though the only derivative he ever gave for it was ✶kalatta “a light, lamp” (PE21/80).

KALAK “glass”

A root appearing in etymological notes from 1968 glossed “glass” with Quenya and Telerin derivatives Q./T. calca of the same meaning (VT47/35). It seems to be a late restoration of the much earlier root ᴱ√kail(i)k or ᴱ√tail(i)k that was the basis of “glass” words in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s; in this early period the Qenya derivatives began with t- and the Gnomish derivatives with c- [k-] (GL/25). It may also have replaced Q. cilin (< *√KILIN?) from the late 1950s or early 1960s (PE17/37). Given its Quenya/Telerin derivatives, √KALAK was probably coined in Aman as was also the case with earlier Q. cilin, since the Sindarin word for “glass” is the unrelated word S. heledh borrowed from Khuzdul (PE17/37).

ᴹ√KALPA “water-vessel”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “water-vessel”, with derivatives ᴹQ. kalpa/N. calf “water-vessel, bucket”, as well as ᴹQ. kalpa- “draw water, scoop out, bale out” (Ety/KALPA). It is a later iteration of ᴱ√KḶPḶ from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s glossed “hold, contains”, with functionally identical noun forms ᴱQ. kalpa/G. calph “bucket, vessel”, but a different verb form ᴱQ. kulp- due to variations in how syllabic developed in Early Qenya (QL/47; GL/25). It illustrates how early roots with syllabic consonants from the 1910s were sometimes transformed later into KALTA-stem roots.

KAM “fit, suit, agree, be agreeable; [ᴹ√] bind, join; [ᴱ√] lie down”

The root √KAM had several distinct meanings over Tolkien’s lifetime. The first appearance of this root is as ᴱ√KAMA¹ “lie down” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, with derivatives like ᴱQ. kama- “to lie down; (c. loc.) to endure, suffer” and ᴱQ. kamba “bed” (QL/44). Its Gnomish equivalents G. cum- “lie (down)” and G. cumli “couch” hint at a vowel shift (GL/27). In any cases, the sense “lie” was primarily assigned to the root √KAY in later writings, as indicated by the later word ᴹQ. kaima for “bed” (Ety/KAY).

There is another unglossed early root ᴱ√KAMA² from the Qenya Lexicon whose derivatives are mostly different types of red flowers, but there are no signs of √KAM being used for this purpose in Tolkien’s later writing.

The next published appearance of ᴹ√KAM was in the 1930s with the gloss “bind, join” to serve as the basis for ᴹQ. okamna “diphthong” (VT44/13), which replaced (o)samna “diphthong” (< ᴹ√SAM) from The Etymologies, only to be replaced again in the 1960s by Q. ohlon (VT39/9; VT48/29). Thus the meaning “bind, join” for √KAM may have been abandoned as well.

The final published appearances of √KAM as a root were in various etymological notes from the late 1960s. In a couple notes it appeared with glosses “fit, suit, agree” and “suit, fit, be agreeable” and a derived (probably primitive) verb ✶kamta- “to (make) fit, suit, accomodate, adapt” (VT44/14). In notes associated with hands and finger written in 1968, Tolkien proposed √KAM as a replacement for √KAB “hold, contain, retain” from which the words Q. camba/S. cam “(cupped) hand” were derived (VT47/20). It also had a derived verb form camnelyes “you received it” (*cam- “receive”), with nasal-suffixed past form camne- (VT47/21). The verb form was replaced by cambelyes, which might indicate a restoration of √KAB with nasal-infixed past form cambe- (*cav- “receive”), as suggested by Patrick Wynne.

For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it best to assume that √KAM as a replacement for √KAB was a transient idea, allowing us to use √KAM with the sense “fit, suit, agree” instead.

KAN “cry aloud; (Q. only) command; lead, rule; [ᴹ√] dare”

The root √KAN was used to explain the Sindarin element -gon in names like S. Fingon and Turgon. For this function, it was introduced in The Etymologies of the 1930s as ᴹ√KAN “dare” with derivatives like N. cann “bold” and ᴹQ. káne/N. caun “valour”, the latter becoming -gon in names (Ety/KAN).

It appeared again in Notes on Names from 1957 with the gloss {“govern, manage” >>} “lead” (PE17/113), but in this document it was ultimately replaced by √KON which could serve as the basis for both -gon in Fingon/Turgon as well -gond [<< -gund] in the name Felegond [<< Felagund] (PE17/118). This √KON (and Felegond) seems to have been transient, and the root √KAN reappeared with the sense “ruler” in a 1967 notes on the derivation of Q. Incánus “Mind Master, where Tolkien again mentioned in passing its use in deriving -gon in Fingon/Turgon (UT/400).

A new interpretation for this root appeared in the Shibboleth of Fëanor written in 1968. Tolkien there stated that √KAN originally meant “cry, call aloud”, and was used only for this purpose in Sindarin (PM/361-362, note #36). In Quenya, however, it shifted to primarily have the sense “command” which served as the basis for Q. cáno “commander, chief” as an element in the names Q. Findecáno and Q. Turucáno (PM/345). These were adapted phonetically into Sindarin as Fingon/Turgon, and the suffix -gon was perhaps interpretted as “-lord” in other names, such as Felagon “Fair-minded Lord”: a Sindarization of Felagund which in 1959 notes had been redefined as a loan word from Khuzdul (PM/352).

Thus, while √KAN was generally the basis for -gon, it went through many different interpretations in Tolkien’s life: 1930s “dare” >> 1957 “lead” >> 1967 “ruler” >> 1968 “cry, call aloud” with the Quenya-only sense “command”. This conceptual evolution makes a hash of other derivatives of the root, particularly those appearing in The Etymologies of the 1930s which have mainly to do with boldness and daring. √KAN is also one of the better candidates for the derivation of S. caun “prince”, but that’s incompatible with the 1968 notion that the root meant only “cry, call aloud” in Sindarin, and indeed those notes gave another meaning to caun: “outcry, clamour” (PM/362).

For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think the 1930s derivatives from ᴹ√KAN “dare” are probably best avoided, and using derivatives of ᴹ√BER “valiant” is preferable.

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